Flight or Fight ~ On being Mindful

Posted March 17, 2015

This past weekend some friends and I from undergrad got together, as we’ve luckily been able to make the habit of doing at least a couple times a year, and spent a day at the spa. It was the perfect respite from our typically busy work and family lives. We’re all hitting good strides in our careers while at the same time taking on the tricky business of balancing that with kids, spouses, and other family or personal commitments. And, no news here, it is a tricky business no matter how blessed you are in your circumstances. As far as my circumstances go, let me say straight away that I do feel grateful for a loving and supportive husband & family, and an employer in ILLUME that wants to support its employees in both their professional AND personal goals.

While going to the spa is a great break from grind, it is only just one day. One of my closest friends and I, whom I’ve known since we were both in Sunday School together, had a conversation about how we deal with (or don’t deal with) stress and anxiety in our everyday lives. We came to the conclusion that neither of us is always very good at it. And I would bet that a vast majority of others (maybe even you) could say the same thing.

There are a few reasons why dealing with stress in a mindful way is such a difficult task for so many people. First, there are the physical barriers. When reacting to stress, your body responds as though it’s dealing with a threat to your life. Your heart begins to race, your immune system and digestive system shut down, and your brain is less able to look at things logically. Sound familiar? Like it or not, you are getting ready for fight or flight. For most professions today, this caveman reaction isn’t necessary. I would say there is nary an email that is ever truly life-threatening!

Second, at work and at home, it’s hard to always be present in the moment. Emails, smart phones, social media, and the like all have great benefits by bringing efficiencies to our lives and connecting us with others. Just think about how many of us in the energy efficiency industry work together from across the country! It’s a blessing, but unfortunately it can’t all be gain; we do lose something as well. When stress enters the stage it is difficult to get rid of all those other distractions and gain some much needed perspective on the matter.

And last but not least, dealing with stressors in a mindful way is a PRACTICE. As in, you have to practice being mindful and taking things in stride. You can’t just one day decide that you’re going to do it and then you have it all figured out. It’s a commitment. This is a barrier but it’s also an opportunity to dig out from under our constantly moving, buzzing, ringing, noisy lives. I know mindfulness is such a trendy word right now, but as of yet I don’t see a downside to it. I won’t go into the details of how to practice mindfulness. Because honestly, first I need to figure out how to make it more of a practice for myself. But I encourage you to do your own research and find something that works for you. I think it will be worth it. As I assess my own life and the example I want to set for my children, I want to be present and enjoy those fleeting times that will be gone before I know it. I will sign off when it is not “work time”, and challenge myself to spend the beautiful days with my family, without checking an email. I’ll be back in the office soon enough and I’m positive that things will be just fine.